Travel Guide: Rome
We’re almost to the end of the trip recaps! Can you believe it? I can’t believe it was a month ago we were there. Rome was our second-to-last stop and like every other city, we took it by storm. I’ve heard plenty of people say that it would take two lifetimes to see everything Rome has to offer, and I believe it. We did our best with three days, and although we didn’t scratch the surface, we were happy with what we were able to accomplish – and how much fun we had in the process. Three days in Rome starts here!
First things first, we splurged a little more in Rome than we did anywhere else and I’m glad we did. Rome was a lot different than I was expecting. I was expecting quaint and it was jam packed with energy, tourists, and buildings. Everything just seemed SO swarming. Knowing we wouldn’t have a ton of time to figure things out on our own, we went on two tours – one a private tour and one a group tour. We absolutely loved both of them and were so happy to have experienced them (more on that below). All in all, we hit all the major spots, ate all of the major eats, and still had time to wander and explore on our own.
Day 1: We arrived in Rome in the early evening from a four hour drive down from Cinque Terre. After dropping the car at the airport and taking a 45 minute train into the city center, we arrived at Rome Termini… one of the largest train stations in Europe. It is a total mess. I heard horror stories of pickpockets, gypsies, and goodness knows what else at that train station. We were prepared and put our heads down and just walked as far as we could from the station before even referencing our map for walking directions to our hotel. On paper it didn’t look like a far walk, but in the heat of the early spring and with luggage, we’d have been better off just taking a taxi. Lesson learned.
We arrived at Albergo del Senato and were quickly checked in and settled in our hotel room. It was dinner time, so we set off to find Roma Sparita, a place we’d set our sights on before leaving the states. We got there only to find it closed on Mondays. Mental note, come back later in the week. We wandered through the Trastevere neighborhood looking for another spot to get our first Roman Meal. We happened upon Da Enzo, which had a line outside the teeny 10 table dining room. Lines outside no-name restaurants are a good sign, right? Well, apparently, they’re reservation only, so we made another mental note. Come back to Da Enzo later in the week (with reservations).
After a little more wandering, we spotted another totally no-name place with a gazillion awards in the window, but with no sign of life behind the dark windows. I pushed through the front door anyway and realized that it was a maze of rooms which led to a rather lively dining room. We asked if they could fit in two people and after some convincing, they took us. Score. The only place where the restaurant name was clearly labeled was on their house wine – Sora Lella. It was decent, but they’re food was fabulous. Surrounded by locals and barely squeaking out the proper Italian, we had a wonderful first meal.
Day 2: We woke up fairly early to get a good breakfast from the hotel (it was included!) and meet our tour guide for the day. We had a private guide named Eugenio who was an archeologist-turned-tour-guide. We spent six hours with him beginning at the Colosseum and weaving our way through the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, The Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Cathedral, and the Sistine Chapel. He taught us more than we could have imagined our hoped for. It was well worth the $50/hour for the one-on-one guide and all of the line skipping that we got to do. I can’t even begin to describe these monuments of history. It was awe-inspiring to just stand in a spot that was as old as Jesus.
We had a quick 2 hour turn-around after our day with Eugenio, before that night’s food tour. I didn’t really mean to book them on the same day, but that’s just how it turned out.
We met the 12 person group for the food tour – hosted by Eating Italy – on Isola Tiberina. We set off to our first of TEN stops and wound up, where else, than Da Enzo… the restaurant with the crazy lines we’d tried to get into the night before. The place looks like nothing (and those are the ones you have to watch out for!) but it was fantastic. We had an appetizer of prosecco and artichokes cooked in the Jewish style (fried whole). I wish we could have tasted more there, but we had lots of ground to cover. In the 10 stops we went to a cookie factory, a 2 BC (BEFORE CHRIST) wine cellar, a street food vendor, a butcher, a gelateria, a pizzeria, and a fabulous pasta restaurant called Enoteca Ferrara for our main sit-down meal. The whole night was amazing. We got to know the Trastevere neighborhood really well, had fabulous food and met a lot of really wonderful people. I highly recommend the tour, but most of all, Enoteca Ferrara (get the cacio e pepe!!).
With full bellies, we made our way back to the hotel (all walking!) and plopped into bed. That’s what 12 hours of tours will do to you!
Day 3: We still hadn’t seen a few sights, but decided to take it slower today. After a cappuccino and cornetto (Italy’s version of a croissant) we wandered around the city, stopping into the Campo di Fiore market, and walking along the Tiber. We wound through back alleys ducking into small shops all of the way north to the Spanish Steps. As we got closer to the steps, the shops got bigger and more pricey, but were still beautiful to explore. We quickly snuck a peek at the Trevi fountain, but since it’s under construction, it was just more of a sneak peek than a full peek.
After a day of leisurely walking, taking in the beautiful blooming flowers, cascading from windows, we relaxed on a few piazzas, drinking prosecco and people watching… which I think deserves to be done, and specifically planned for.
That night, we had been invited to go visit the UN ambassador to the Vatican for wine and cheese at his villa. We had initially toyed with the idea of staying with him, but had opted to stay in the centro storico instead. He is a family friend and we were happy to have the opportunity to step out of the hustle and bustle of the city to lounge with him on his rooftop patio for the night.
After leaving the ambassadors home, we were ready for dinner. We went back to Roma Sparita (where we’d tried to go on the first night) and they were packed. Again, we asked if there was anyway they could squeeze us in and to our surprise (and delight) they could. We had a totally random table by the kitchen, but we didn’t care one bit. Although they’re known for their Cacio e Pepe, I had the ravioli and it was some of the best pasta I had in Italy. Hands down. The service was fabulous, I spoke 100% Italian to the servers and they were phenomenal. It was an amazing end to a fabulous night and I am so thankful they were kind enough to set up a table for us.
We wandered back to the hotel, bellies full and will a slight buzz. Rome had enchanted us and won us over. It was grittier than Paris, busier than New York, and had more passion & guts than any other city I’ve visited. You definitely have to be ready for it, but once you are, you’ll fall in love.
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